Archive for May, 2013

Welfare or well being – a wealth of difference
May 4, 2013

This column first appeared in the May 2013 All Month of the Friday Am in Salmon Arm.
Welfare is defined as government programs designed to help those in need. Well being, on the other hand, is a measure of the condition of a group or individual’s social, economic, and environmental satisfaction.
The difference, in my view, is about how we approach gains and losses. Do we privatize them or socialize them?

The concept of privatizing gains and socializing losses in not new. In fact, go back as far as Andrew Jackson, President of the United States in 1834 who called a certain financial institution “a den of vipers and thieves” for privatizing gains and socializing losses.

More recently, much ink has spilled on income disparity and the concentration of wealth in a smaller and smaller percentage of the population. And at its foundation is this idea of privatizing gains and socializing losses. Despite what you might think, there’s more than one kind of welfare in our society, the most costly of which is the corporate kind rather than the social kind. It’s also called the CC-PP game –  commonizing cost and privatizing profits.

I think it’s time we talked more about well being, and less about welfare. I think it’s time we talked less about retained earnings and more about re-invested ones. I’m all for people making money, it’s how I earn my living after all. I just think that once I’ve earned it, I should place it in such a way that it keeps working. We don’t have a wealth problem. We have a distribution one.

Money is not a product. It’s a method of exchange. When we stop exchanging it, it stops working. Consider this – despite record profits in our economy, we are graduating post secondary students with record amounts of debt into a labour market with record high youth unemployment. It doesn’t add up. And wether we like it or not, those young people have a great deal to pay for in the years and decades ahead including our pensions, our health care and our aging infrastructure. The burden of which is already taking a costly toll on their well being.
It needn’t be this way. We need the social will to embrace a well being economy. Nobody wants welfare. I suspect even those on welfare wish it weren’t so. It’s not what anybody strives for. It’s not what we’re here for. It’s a sense of purpose and contribution that we crave. It’s well being. And its time we strived for it instead of wealth for wealth’s sake.